Child & Adult Care Food Program
Dealing with the picky eater
Getting a finicky child to eat healthful meals can be a challenge for parents. Experts in child behavior say the secret of turning meal time into a more enjoyable experience is taking into consideration children's special needs and tastes.
The following tips recognize these special concerns and have been developed from healthful ideas to motivate children to enjoy "good for you" foods.
Children like familiar foods. Add a twist to favorite foods to encourage them to try new foods. Serve new foods with old favorites.
Children eat small portions. Cut food into small chunks or bite-sized pieces and serve them on a small plate, so the children aren't overwhelmed.
Children like healthy food that is fun. Interesting shapes and colorful ways to serve foods interest children. For example, they enjoy dipping foods. A dip also allows them the choice of how much sauce or dressing to put on food.
Children like to help in the kitchen. They take pride and feel "grown up" when they share responsibility in food preparation.
Children enjoy a choice of foods at the table. Giving children an alternative to a new dish will prevent having to cook something new if they refuse to eat the new food.
Children need to have good examples set for them by adults eating healthful foods. Parents who no only eat the foods they prepare for their children, but also eat a variety of healthful foods every day will pass on good habits.
Children need a set schedule for regular meals and snacks. A firm schedule will help in planning ahead and will teach children to eat regular meals.
Keep healthy recipes simple. Easy recipes that take little time to prepare are best for busy parents and caregivers.
Teaching good nutrition and cooking at a young age builds lifelong good habits. Teaching the basics builds lifelong good habits. Teaching the basics - moderation, balance and variety - helps children understand not only that it is important to eat a healthful diet, but also why healthful eating is important.
Teach youngsters that healthful food is tasty. Forcing children to eat any foods is not a good idea and does not encourage the belief that "good for you" food tastes good. In the same way, using dessert as a reward for eating vegetables does not promote the concept that fruit and vegetables are a delicious part of a meal.
Providing simple, healthful cooking techniques gives children the ability to cook nutritious meals for themselves. Children need to learn how to prepare easy healthful recipes so they can make low-fat, complex carbohydrate foods a part of their diet.
Source: The School Food Service Foundation and the Sugar Association, Inc.